Eating in Southern California

Start with breakfast in Huntington Beach at The Sugar Shack

The Sugar Shack

Sun, scrambled eggs and perfect crispy hash browns. Is there a more perfect breakfast? Take your time. Hang out. Have another cup of coffee and then wander down to the pier and watch the surfers catching waves. This is Southern California breakfast at its finest.

There are a couple choices for lunch starting with Sankai in Costa Mesa

San Kai

Yes it’s in a strip mall. I know. Go anyway because the fish is fresh and you can sit outside. Plus sushi is the prettiest food you’ll ever put in your mouth.

But maybe tacos are more your thing? Then head south to Carlsbad and go to Cessy’s Taco Shop

Cessy's Taco Shop

The thing I love most about the Southwest and Southern Cali is that you can get better Mexican food off a red plastic tray in a glorified taco truck than you get in most sit down restaurants up north. Cessy’s has great tacos. Get lots of salsa and go to town on the fresh hot chips. Lunch. Bam!

How about dinner by the water on Harbor Island?

Island Prime - C Level

That’s macadamia nut encrusted baked brie from Island Prime – C Level. Yum. We had a table overlooking the water where we could see the boats sailing in the bay and at night you can see the San Diego city skyline. Island Prime serves classy food in a relaxed atmosphere. It’s classic California.

Stop at the Hotel del Coronado for drinks before you head home.

Hotel del Coronado

A historic landmark with 125 years of rich California beach history, Hotel del Coronado has beautifully landscaped grounds and a gorgeous bar so it’s worth a visit.

End your evening by watching the sun set over to the ocean. Because that’s why you came to California, right?

Pacific ocean

Dinner and a movie

Had dinner with a couple of my favorite guys tonight under a gorgeous sky

I’m not tired of sushi yet

But I’ll change up the pictures

and give you a different view

or two…

After which we saw Priest, which had potential to be way better. It’s unfortunate because it has a couple of good actors and gorgeous bled out to pale post-apocalyptic landscapes with bad ass machinery and men in long dramatic black coats

as if the Matrix had a love child with Mad Max. The plot is reasonable, the beginning animated sequence is lovely and I do love the mash up of westerns with sci fi (I’m looking forward to Cowboys and Aliens. I admit it. Which has nothing to do with Daniel Craig. Nothing at all). But Priest has laughable dialogue and whoever scored it should be told – gently – that Subway is hiring. Hor-ren-dous.

So, don’t see Priest unless you can see it for $1.50 and it’s 100 degrees outside, in which case go see it but I’d recommend a cake pop to improve the experience:

Tucson AZ

I think they’re over there!

Sushi and Conversation

I’m in a weird place where I’ve decided to do something I don’t know how to do (write for a living) so I’m figuring it out as I do it. This probably isn’t weird, all things considered, because I don’t think anyone knows how to do this until they do it. And I’m also pretty sure that everyone does it differently, which makes advice and examples useful only in a limited way.

However, there are a few things that help and in that list I’d put “sushi dinners with my friends who are doing similarly difficult things” right at the top. Jules is in the endgame with her dissertation so we got together for a “lady date” tonight to catch up and problem solve together.

For your edification, here’s the dinner we had and our collected wisdom regarding our various projects.

1. Just get it down on paper – sometimes it’s less about quality and more about doing it. Sometimes the beginning part is going to suck anyway so you might as well get it out so you can get to the part that’s better. Sometimes you just have to do it so you have something to edit later.

2. If you are afraid it will suck, it’s better to get there faster so you have more time to deal with it – Jules and I discovered a mutual tendency to put things off for fear that they might be terrible once we’ve done them. I guess the thinking is that it’s better to think it will be terrible than to do it and know it is.  On a deadline, this is death. It’s much more efficient to get to the terrible part faster so you have the time to fix it or change it or deal with it. If you push it off and it is terrible, you might get stuck with it.

3. Small deadlines make work possible – a large looming deadline of finishing something is so daunting. Break it into small pieces. Daily pieces if possible. Filling the daily quota of work allows you to “rest completely when you rest.” See how I referenced the last dinner I had with Jules here? The practical practice of resting completely is something that we’ve both worked at ever since that dinner.

4. Find a diversion that doesn’t break the flow of work – this is very tricky. There are times when I need a couple days away from writing but I’ve discovered that I lose extra time because it can take me an extra day to get back into the swing of things. I’m still learning how far away from my writing I need to stray in order to be refreshed and how far is too far because it takes me too long to get back.

5. You won’t feel like it so don’t wait – no matter how I feel, I’ve discovered that if I pick up a pen and a piece of paper, the words will come. For sure. But if I wait until I feel like it, I get very little done because I have an infinite bag of distraction tricks. Occasionally you feel like it. Mostly you don’t. Do it anyway.

6. It you’ve ever done something hard and accomplished it, this thing is just like that thing – incredibly difficult things have similarities to them. They’re conquered by habit. You will spend a certain amount of time doing stuff that doesn’t seem to make any difference while you don’t seem to get any better.  But then one day you wake up and it’s easier. Writing is the same way for me. I know it’s hard now and will get easier later. It’s how difficult things work. The progress is glacial, but it is progress.

But mostly (and mainly) sushi helps. So does conversation.

Things that are great: Sushi

My standard sushi order includes:

Sake – salmon sashimi.

My favorite. If I could only order one kind of fish, I’d order salmon sashimi. They usually serve it with a shiso leaf, which I always eat, but I never eat the pile of daikon radish.

Aji – Spanish mackerel

I first had this fish in Costa Mesa, CA with my friend, Donna. I loved it from the first bite and now I always order it when it’s available. It comes in a light vinegary sauce that makes my mouth water just writing about it.

Saba – mackerel.

Also slightly sour, like pickled herring. I eat it last, like a palate cleanser.

Some kind of spicy shellfish. This is a spicy shrimp roll. I also love spicy scallop sushi pieces.

Rainbow Roll

This is the wild card. Sometimes it’s a rainbow roll. Sometimes it’s a Caterpillar Roll. Sometimes it’s something else that looks like fun. With this roll I love the tiny orange crunchy masago on top.

Things I never order: Tamago. Although I discovered that most sushi places buy this sweetened omelette premade in a box and just cut it up and serve it over rice. At the same sushi place in Costa Mesa, CA, they made their own Tamago and it was delicious. However, sweet eggs with soy sauce doesn’t seem right.

And of course:

Green Tea

I love Genmaicha, green tea with roasted brown rice.

What’s your favorite sushi order?